Cirrhosis of the liver is a chronic disease in which soft healthy liver tissue is slowly replaced by hard scar tissue. As this scar tissue builds, it blocks the flow of blood through the liver and prevents the liver from operating normally. The scarring itself is called fibrosis, which leads to cirrhosis.
A healthy liver is vital to many functions of the body, including
- storing and processing the nutrients we receive from food and delivering them to the rest of the body
- removing harmful substances from our blood, such as fats, bacteria, toxins, and cholesterol
- producing proteins essential for blood clotting
Cirrhosis of the liver is caused over time from a number of factors that damage the liver. The 2 leading causes of liver damage in the United States are chronic alcoholism and long-term viral hepatitis C. Other risk factors for liver damage include fat build up in the liver, bile duct disease, medications, inflammation caused by autoimmune diseases.
In its early stages, cirrhosis typically does not show any symptoms. As the disease progresses and more damage is done to the liver, symptoms such as fatigue, itching, weight loss, bloating of the abdomen, and jaundice may develop.
As the liver fails, many serious complications can arise. These complications can include:
- Hepatic encephalopathy
- Increased risk of infections
- Liver cancer
- Gallstones and bile duct stones
- Bruising and bleeding
- Portal hypertension
In early treatment for cirrhosis, the goal of treatment is to slow the progression of damaging scar tissue and preventing complications. This can include changes in medications and lifestyle changes such as reducing alcohol consumption, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly. Other treatment options vary depending on the suspected cause of liver damage.
Liver transplant is considered for cirrhosis when cirrhosis leads to liver failure or when treatment for complications is ineffective.
It is important to know that there are options available for patients with cirrhosis. Talk with your doctor about ways to improve your health and prevent further damage. Studies and drug trials aimed at advancing the treatment and knowledge of this disease are available. If you feel one of these studies are right for you, we would love to help.
At Vanderbilt's GI Clinical Research Enterprise, we are dedicated to finding a solution that works for you.
Current Trials for Cirrhosis
We currently have no trials enrolling for Cirrhosis patients. Talk with your doctor about upcoming trials or other treatment options available.